Great weekend for Enduren athletes who attained 3 podium positions this past weekend at the Magoeba Trek.
Mixed: 1st -Melt & Yolandi; 3rd -Heinro & Jenine.
Womens: 2nd -Mari & Heila
Due to a clash on our race calendar we couldn’t participate in last year’s inaugural Magoeba Trek MTB stage race and by all accounts we missed out. We try to never make the same mistake twice and committed to this year’s event last November already making sure we could join in the fun.
We have just returned from a stint racing in Europe so we knew we were slightly fatigued and travel weary but the excitement of lining up at a new event (at least for us) IN South Africa motivated us a lot. Add in some strong competition for the Mixed Category and we were soon in ‘race mode’.
An unexpected but very welcome bonus came our way when Nico Bell from Team NAD offered us their surplus accommodation and we could stay comfortably on site making our logistics a lot easier. Seemingly small things like this make a big difference in both our performance and our experience of the event making us very grateful.
The Magoeba Trek is hosted at Cheerio Gardens situated high on a mountain between Tzaneen and Polokwane in the Limpopo Province. It runs over 3 days heading in a different direction each day and with distinctly different courses for each stage. Stage 1 was undulating in the most extreme sense of the word and it felt like we spent the whole day going up and down over short, sharp climbs. Day 2 had a fast start and a long descent down into a valley before we made our way back via an hour long (rocky!) climb and a final drag that seemed interminable. The last stage was a punchy, cross country style route filled with fun singletrack and loads of turns taking our minds off the effort needed to power up the steep hills.
Despite our opposition racing aggressively we stuck to our guns and raced to our strengths. Every day they would start fast and race ahead while we rode a pace we thought was sustainable, clawing our way back into the game every time. There was no GPS navigation and some peculiar placed route markers hade everyone missing a turn at some point, adding a few kilometres to their race. We realized this early on and made a point of following the correct route reasoning that a few seconds lost going slow to check the route is less costly than getting lost.
It was clear that a lot of hard work and effort had gone into the trails but they were by no means manicured adding a sense of adventure and discovery to the race. It also meant you had to be a bit more circumspect with your riding or risk a puncture and/or mechanical. Most teams had a mechanical hiccup along the way and it was all about how you dealt with it that decided your fate.
We fought hard all weekend but it also felt like we really measured our effort well racing every stage to the best of our abilities leaving us delighted to come away with the win. Apart from the racing it was good to catch up with the mountain bike crowd while enjoying the generous hospitality offered by the event. The organizers couldn’t do enough to accommodate everyone, the food was top drawer and the coffee, pancake and Boerie-roll vendors sorted out the rest.
We look forward to watching this event grow and enjoy the success it deserves!
The PPS Panorama Tour
Taking full advantage of the public holiday, the 14th edition of the Panorama Tour took place over this past weekend (15-18 June 2019). The unique format for a road race of riders racing in pairs similar to a mountain bike stage race is an interesting angle and makes for some exciting racing. The race consists of 3 road stages and a final time trial to decide overall honours, all raced on the roads around White River, Mpumalanga. This race wasn’t on our schedule, but being in our backyard it was hard to say no when a last minute opportunity arose to take part. Best case scenario we got a great result, worst case scenario we would have a decent block of training on roads made safer by partial traffic closure and the sheer number of cyclists.
On that note, almost 160 duos - some on tandem bicycles - took to the start line with almost a quarter of the field riding in Mixed Teams consisting of male and female riders. It is fantastic to see this category grow and become so popular across all disciplines of cycling. Partly by design and partly by coincidence it has meant a sharp increase in ladies participation which is great for the sport. It also means stronger competition and the top mixed teams were very competitive with the category winners finishing just outside the top 20 teams overall by the end of the race.
Being such a last minute decision we were slightly under prepared for the race and it showed compared to those who had made this event a goal. Far from being dejected this is actually quite inspiring to us as it means the standard of cycling is improving and if anything it just motivates us to be back next year with some specific preparation.
A few punctures added to our woes but it was easy to look past the bad luck and enjoy being part of this fantastic event, racing on the roads we usually just get to train on. Despite suffering through the racing we really enjoyed the camaraderie of the event and the fact that it straddled the fine line between being competitive and being fun – not an easy thing to do when competition is involved.
The weather also played along and we enjoyed 4 days of sunshine with the majority of riders leaving with sharper tan lines than those they had on arrival. The race village at Casterbridge shopping centre was lively with a proper ‘chill zone’ and plenty of options to re-caffeinate after each stage. Obviously our vote went to the merchant peddling the best carrot cake – it’s our thing!
All in all the event is living up to its potential and with road cycling events struggling to find their niche the Panorama Tour obviously offers something cyclists crave as most people left already dreaming about next year’s event.
Yolandi du Toit - Powered by Enduren Nutrition...#NaturalEndurance.
Last weekend Team Garmin participated at the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek 4 day stage race held at Kaleo Guest farm just outside Ceres in the rugged Witzenberg mountains.
Ben Melt Swanepoel raced alongside Alan Gordon in the elite Men category, whilst I took to the start in the mixed category alongside my 2018 Cape Epic partner, Gus Klohn.
As if the heat, strong competition and technical trails weren’t challenging enough a stomach bug forced Gus to retire after stage 2. I decided to stay in the race as an unofficial rider. This gave me the opportunity to soak up the beautiful surrounds which you normally don't get to do when you are racing at your limit.
Melt and Alan had a solid ride despite daily mechanicals adding minutes to their overall finishing time.
Enjoy the pictures and if possible come and enjoy one of Dryland’s premier events for yourself next February. You won’t be disappointed.
The Cape Pioneer Trek
South Africa must be the Mecca of mountain bike stage racing and with the exception of a very short winter (July) and Christmas break, world class multi-day events litter our calendar. The last 4 weeks have been an especially busy period for us racing at Mankele 3 Towers, the Berg&Bush and finally the Cape Pioneer Trek. These are three very unique and distinct events but the one thing they all have in common is the extremely high quality of each event.
From the traditional mountain biking at Mankele to the sculpted trails of Berg&Bush and finally the The Cape Pioneer journey, it has been a fantastic month of racing. Not many people get to do any of these events making us well aware of how special it is to do all three.
The Cape Pioneer Trek is known as the ‘Race with Soul’ with the character of the Klein Karoo regions people infusing every aspect of the event giving the race its distinctive character. In its 10th edition, The Cape Pioneer Trek was sure to deliver something special and event organizers, Dryland, did not disappoint!
Mauritian Yannick Lincoln invited me to ride the Cape Pioneer with him giving me a golden opportunity to be back at the much loved Pioneer. Yolandi refused to miss out on the fun so we organised a last minute partnership for her with the ever reliable Catherine Williamson.
Having started their cycling careers on the road at the same time, the two know each other well but they haven’t raced together for a while. Catherine also came into the race uncertain about her form having just won the gruelling 8-day Himalayan Epic a week prior. Winning the race showed she was fit, but spending a week at altitude coupled with a taxing journey to South Africa no-one knew what to expect. Being the professionals that they are it didn’t take much for them to gel as a team and they soon hit their stride winning stage 1 after ‘warming up’ in the prologue. Unfortunately a stomach bug derailed their plans and they suffered through stage 2 losing a lot of time but doing enough to stay in the race. This is where teamwork is so important and the two of them got through the tough times as a unit knowing it would pay off later in the week. So it proved with another stage win on stage 4 and a 2nd overall placing by the time they crossed the final finish line in Oudtshoorn having traversed a total of 540km with 11000m ascent in weather conditions ranging from 40degree heat to temperatures below zero and sleet on the Swartberg Pass.
Yannick and I got things off to a reasonable start in the opening prologue around Mossel Bay. Still suffering from a head cold contracted 2 weeks earlier I was ‘governed’ at a certain speed in the early stages and Yannick had to nurse me somewhat. This is obviously frustrating but we made the best of the situation working together as well as we could. On stage 4 it felt like the tide was turning as we made it over the fearsome Montagu Pass with the 5 leading teams – time to roll the dice...
On an innocuous stretch of district road we proceeded to slice a tire on a piece of bad luck leaving us instantly frustrated at the side of the road. We did a patch job to make it to the tech zone, proceeded to mount a new tyre and set off in desperate pursuit only to realize the rim tape had moved during all the repairs. Cue a u-turn back to the tech zone where we luckily got another wheel to resume the dejected pursuit, only in a more annoyed state than before. We gamely limited our losses and fought well the next day at the summit finish on Swartberg Pass but by the final day the flame was flickering. We still managed to pull off a 10th place finish in a strong field, but we were left wondering about what could have been.
As a week long journey the Cape Pioneer Trek is hard to top with riders going from coastal forests, over the Outeniqua Mountains into the Klein Karoo delivering a truly diverse and complete challenge. Along the way the Dryland crew and hosting communities make everyone feel at home while fuelling us with food so good it felt like a daily eating competition!
So if you want motivation to train through our Southern Hemisphere winter just enter any (or all!) of these events – you won’t be disappointed and the fitter you are the more you will enjoy them!
Report by Enduren Athletes: Ben-Melt Swanepoel and Yolandi du Toit
Enduren Athletes - Ben-Melt & Yolandi both win at Garmin MTB Classic!
Yolandi joined Garmin in 2013 and has become synonymous with the brand. I joined her as a brand ambassador in 2015 and in 2016 I graduated to full Garmin colours when we formed Team Garmin MTB. Ever since then we have been competing as a team under the auspices of Garmin, providing us with the perfect platform to share our passion for cycling. This might not seem like a long time, but in sporting terms it may as well be an eternity. It is not often one gets a world leading brand like Garmin showing such faith in, and loyalty to individuals and we are proud to be some of the athletes they choose to support.
With all this as background you can imagine how much it means to us when Garmin sees fit to organise a mountain bike event and instead of us visiting the office, the office comes to us! It was really cool to see the whole gang come out to support the inaugural Garmin MTB Classic this past Saturday. Some took part in the race, some worked on the sidelines, but we all enjoyed a hugely successful first running of the event.
To get as many people as possible to join in the fun and make the race really accessible, the entry fee was a mere R50 with the excess being subsidised by Garmin. So for the same money you would normally spend on entry at a bike park, you got entry to the race complete with goodie bag and all the other regular trimmings of a Velocourse organized event.
The one factor no one can control is weather and as luck would have it a big storm blew in on Friday night and we feared the worst. Luckily just enough rain fell to turn the dusty trails into ‘hero dirt’ making a really fun course even more enjoyable. The cool temperatures might have had a few fans shivering in the early hours, but it was perfect for cyclists who worked up a sweat criss-crossing the Big Red Barn trails.
Team Garmin was seeded at the head of affairs and we did all we could to maintain our positions as the race started 7:30am sharp. Not knowing who was behind or what might happen out on course Yolandi pushed hard all the way around the 55km course, ultimately winning the ladies race in a time of 2h17min.
Constant pressure on the front of the race soon dwindled the leading pack to a trio of riders in the opening 15km. Jan Withaar punctured in the most unfortunate of circumstances leaving me to do battle with Kyle Brummer for the win. I got away from him with a bout 20km left to race and went on to record a very proud double win for Team Garmin MTB in ‘our’ race.
Last week we said how nice it was to be part of the inaugural running of an event, so you can imagine the pride we felt competing in and taking the spoils at the first ever Garmin MTB Classic. We couldn’t ask for more and even the sun came out as we spent the rest of the day hanging out with everyone that came to support the event. It was really cool to see Garmin’s vision for the event unfold as friends and families united around a bike race making for a fun day out for everyone!
Bank Gabarone Quest
The inaugural Bank Gaborone Quest was held this past weekend and Team Garmin MTB packed our bags and headed to Botswana for our first ‘international event’ of 2019 ;) Granted, it’s only a car drive away but it sure feels adventurous crossing the border to get to a bike race.
Two stages of about 60km each awaited us in and around Gaborone, the capitol of Botswana. The typically flat terrain was fun to ride but as a race course it presented its own challenge requiring constant pressure on the pedals to stay in the game. Straying from the abundant singletrack was at your own risk with plenty of thorns lying in wait meaning equipment, skill and a bit of luck was crucial. Although there were a few sandy patches (aka Botswana hills), the trails flowed very nicely considering we were at the back end of a dry winter.
The race is called a ‘Quest’ and with good reason... The route was very well marked with little green markers, but following them while racing flat out proved quite a challenge. As soon as you lost concentration you would miss a turn requiring only a small correction, but a big effort to get back up to speed. After a while it became apparent that the best way was to stay calm and focus rather than go for the all out, guns blazing approach. Following the locals who knew the trails and using the markers as confirmation also helped a lot.
Talking about locals, Tim Hammond was on fire leading from the front. Like last weekend, Melt and Tim rode together for most of the way on both days but Tim proved stronger powering away at the end of each stage to win both stages and the overall with Melt in second on both days and on the General Classification.
I made life difficult for myself by missing a turn on day 1 and inadvertently following the green markers from another race. Luckily I could use my Garmin 1030 to get back on the correct route and chased back to the leaders. I managed to win both stages and the overall in the ladies category completing a successful weekend for Team Garmin.
Apart from the racing the event offered a variety of entertainment with bands playing live music, Dylan Victor wowing the crowd with his trials riding, an assortment of food stalls and a kid’s play park. It is not often a 2 day stage race is hosted in and around a country’s capitol making off the bike activities all the more important to keep non riders and fans engaged.
The icing on the cake for us was being hosted by the local Garmin distributor and race organiser. They took us into their homes and looked after us like we were VIP’s making it very hard to head home after 2 days of fantastic hospitality.
Being part of the inaugural edition of any event is special as it becomes the reference point for all that follows. We look forward to growing with this event and being back in Botswana soon for another Team Garmin adventure!
Next up is our very own Garmin MTB Classic to be held this Saturday at the Big Red Barn in Midrand. If you can, come and join in all the family fun!
Team Garmin saddled up for the 230km Trans Baviaans this past weekend. Like last year Yolandi teamed up with her dad for the journey from Willowmore to Jeffrey’s Bay through the Baviaanskloof (canyon). All around nice guy, multiple former champion and record holder at the event Tim Hammond accepted my invitation and we finally got our opportunity to team up for an event. As if riding 230km off road wasn’t hard enough we faced stiff competition from Team DSV’s Gert Heyns & Arno du Toit as well as the William Simpson pairing of Mike Posthumus and Derrin Smith.
Weather conditions were perfect in the aftermath of a cold front with bright blue skies, cool temperatures and a light tailwind blowing us steadily South East towards the coast.
Learning from the mistakes they made last year Yolandi and her dad rode conservatively in the flat, opening 100km saving energy for the second half of the event. Unfortunately luck wasn’t on their side and barely halfway into the race an injury her dad sustained in a crash the week prior to the event started flaring up forcing him to pedal with just one leg. To add insult to injury the pain medication he took had an adverse effect on his stomach making him extremely nauseous. Luckily blood is thicker than water (and everything else he couldn’t keep down) and Yolandi nursed him home in 12 hours 30 minutes. In my opinion stories of camaraderie like this embody an ultra-marathon event and are the main reason why people keep coming back to tackle this iconic event.
Talking of teamwork, Tim and I were forced on the back foot when Arno and Gert launched a surprise attack very early on in the race taking one other team with them. The four riders worked well together building up a solid advantage while we sat patiently in the chasing group of about 6 teams. As we entered Checkpoint 2 (km 104), we saw Team DSV depart and knew we were still in with a chance.
I can go into a lot more detail (with expletives) but suffice to say that for the next 100km a VERY painful pursuit ensued with the gap between us always staying within 30seconds to 1min30seconds. Tim was a beast pacing most of the way with me hanging on as we did all we could to stay in touch. Tim’s folks were our back up team and they did a perfect job of keeping us motivated and fed at the checkpoints. At the final checkpoint with only 25km left to race the first few teams were misdirected by barriers which were erected for another race held the week before. Even after 200km of racing Tim was calm as a cucumber and his experience at the event helped us find our way back to the correct route reasonably quickly.
We saw tracks on the road and assumed team DSV were still ahead so we emptied the tank in pursuit of them but they were out of sight. After 7 hours and 51 minutes we rolled into the finish at Jeffrey’s Bay with the announcer saying we had won. We were surprised and then only realised that we weren’t the only ones to have been misdirected. Gert, Arno, Mike and Derrin came in a few minutes later and despite all 3 teams riding a few extra kilometres we all dipped under the 8 hour mark and well within the old record.
The Ride Crater Cruise has been an institution on the SA MTB calendar since its inception in 2004 when it was designed and billed as the ultimate challenge between MTB and road cyclists. The race slowly evolved to be more of a mountain bike race, but always maintained its characteristic corrugated road sections, flat-ish profile and less technical nature.
Last year the race did not take place due to land access issues, but this year it was back on the calendar with a new route and venue. The Koedoeslaagte Trail Park and Venue situated on the banks of the Vaal River was the start and finish venue this year with the course going out the same way as always but starting about 25km into the old route omitting the neutral zone through town, the opening hot-spot sprint (on tar) and the fight for position leading into the first corrugated section.
Although these established features were missed there were a few new sections which added fresh flavour to the race route. Chief amongst these was the new singletrack section shortly after the start, the extra loop through the Grootkoppe Nature Reserve and the traverse of the Thabela Thabeng Kloof. Although the new route is a breath of fresh air, it still needs some refining and if the organisers stick with it there is a lot of potential for future editions to reclaim the stature that the race used to enjoy.
Self seeding at the start saw riders lining up in 3 batches according to their fitness level and/or ambition for the race. This meant ladies and men started together but as always a fast start sorted things out pretty quickly.
In the men’s race Arno du Toit was the early aggressor attacking from the start with the Day brothers using their road racing acumen and tactics to keep everything in check behind. Melt attacked on the Espach climb combining with Arno on the open roads that followed. The second half of the race was a tough affair being mainly uphill on jeep track and cattle paths. This is where Melt made a break from Arno maintaining his lead to win the Crater Cruise for a third time.
I followed the pace as best I could from the start often riding alone or in small groups but always maintaining a steady pace knowing how tough this event is. Starting with the men made the race a lot more aggressive and equalled the playing field as it added to the depth of the field in comparison to a ladies-only bunch. Everyone was a rival and the route was the real challenge with nowhere to hide. Despite strong challenges from Cherise Willeit and Sylvia van Tromp I managed to take a 4th victory in this race which has such a special place in my heart.
One of the biggest challenges on the day was the heat, exacerbated by the longer than advertised race distance (10km longer!) which made the waterpoints further apart than expected. The fact that the final 7km was on fun singletrack next to the mighty Vaal River was lost on most, as it was so close to the finish that the commentators voice could often be heard in an agonising case of so close, yet so far...
In the end The Ride Crater Cruise was the usual slug fest which suits our style of racing and we were happy to come out on top for Team Garmin!
Three Enduren Athletes on the Podium for Sani2C mixed: Melt, Yolandi and Kath!
At 12 years old, the Sani2C is one of the oldest and most iconic mountain bike stage races in South Africa and indeed the world. The event owes its name to the now famous route from the foot of Sani Pass to Scottburgh Main beach on the Indian Ocean, envisioned and sculpted by Glen Haw or as everyone knows him - Farmer Glen.
It has grown from a 3 day stage race, to a 3 event race with each version taking 1500 participants over the same route on 3 consecutive editions. From Tuesday to Thursday the Sani2C Trail riders tackle the route followed by the Sani2C Adventure participants from Wednesday to Friday and finally the Sani2C Race gets its opportunity from Thursday to Saturday.
In all 4500 riders traverse the 263km route in the space of 5 days, turning a lot of the singletrack (and there is a LOT of singletrack) into a proverbial MTB highway.
In stark contrast to the longevity of Sani2C, this year’s event would be the first race Yolandi du Toit and I would race together as Team Garmin. Yolandi is synonymous with Garmin having represented them for the last 2 and a half years, but for me it was a first.
This initiative was instigated when Walter Mech, CEO of Garmin SA had the vision of a mixed team representing Garmin as a brand. From his idea came the reality that we would team up as Team Garmin for select events. Outside of these chosen events I will continue to represent Squirtlube, albeit as a Garmin Brand Ambassador using and promoting their products.
Although we had raced the 2015 Trans Alp and Southern Tropical Challenge together, Sani2C would be our first excursion representing Garmin as a team and we both really wanted to start off the partnership with a bang.
Despite 1295m of climbing stage 1 of Sani2C is 82km of high speed action from Glencairn Farm just outside of Himeville to MacKenzie Club in Ixopo. We had a great start going into the dual tracks through ‘Oak Maze’ just behind the well established mixed team of Johan Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson (Team BestMed/Bicycle Company). They got a small gap on us just prior to the following singletrack section, but we kept them in sight for most of the day eventually finishing 2nd on the stage. What impressed me most on the stage was Yolandi’s World Cup-like racer skill as she attacked the slippery singletracks with enough verve to even scare me a few times!
Day 2 of Sani2C is the Big Daddy or so-called ‘Queen stage’, squeezing almost 1600m of climbing into the second half of a 99km stage following the infamous drop into the Umkomaas Valley. Our best laid plans were dashed when a small puncture at the very top of the Umkomaas saw us losing not so much time, but plenty of position as a horde of teams passed us while we repaired the errant fissure. From then on it was a chase to make up time as we had to pass team after team, often finding ourselves frustrated by the scant passing opportunities available. We paid for our efforts towards the end of the stage when the wheels started to come off a little bit, but we lived to fight another day.
Day 3 was our last shot at a stage win and that was our goal when we set of to cover the 82km from Jolivet Farm to Scottburgh. We just lost position going into the first singletrack, sitting close behind Johan and Cath when Yolandi’s rear wheel got caught in an erosion ditch, violently throwing her sideways but somehow she stayed upright (did I mention Yolandi’s skills?!?). We steadied the ship, composed ourselves and started our chase back to the leaders for a third day in a row. We emptied ourselves to maintain our 2nd position overall, finishing within eyesight of the 2nd team on the day.
Johan and Cath were deserving winners of the 2016 Sani2C, especially so after their 2nd place at Joberg2C just weeks before due to a puncture which cost them their lead on the penultimate stage. Natal locals Andrew Warr and Hailey Smith (Kargo Pro MTB Team) got stronger as the days progressed and finished in 3rd place.
1. Team BestMed/Bicycle Co (Johan Labuschagne & Catherine Williamson)
2. Team Garmin (Yolandi du Toit & Melt Swanepoel)
3. Kargo Pro MTB Team (Andrew Warr & Hailey Smith)
We were satisfied that we had done all we could and gave our best but were beaten by a stronger and more experienced team at the race. We have learned a lot and hopefully that knowledge will stand us in good stead as we face up to our next race as Team Garmin at the One Zambia event in 2.5 week’s time.
Until then we will #Beat Yesterday!
Yolandi and Melt
lick here to edit.
With only a 3 day break in between events, my Lowveld expedition continued on from the 4 day Panorama Tour to the well-known Sabie Experience Stage Race.
Sabie Experience is one of the oldest stage races in the country making it a unique event to be part of. This year’s edition consisted of a 65km stage on day one followed by an 82km stage on day two before the 40km time trail on the final day.
Riders couldn’t have asked for a better stage one as a great route, clear skies and stunning scenery all made for a textbook start to the event. Unfortunately that afternoon a cold front sweeping across the country arrived in Sabie and the inevitable rain started to fall.
Sabie with all its striking beauty can be a different creature when wet. The ground gets very slippery in certain parts of the forest which can catch you off guard completely. Having had my own close encounters with Mother Nature due to these icy patches, I can’t help but get nervous whenever there is rainfall in this area during a race.
Despite the rain clearing just before the start of day two, the course was left wet and slippery in places throughout the remainder of the event. Fortunately I didn’t have to take too many risks on the technical sections as I had a 12 minute lead on my rivals after the completion of stage one.
The young and talented Emily Clarke (Valencia Team) put up a great battle racing fearlessly to keep me on my toes throughout the event. In the end Emily closed down my lead, finishing in 2nd place overall with Kirsten Gillespie (Valencia Team) rounding out the podium in 3rd place.
I am very pleased to take the overall victory in such a long standing event such as Sabie Experience and even more satisfied to have kept the rubber side down. This event truly challenges you on so many levels as the mountainous terrain, natural elements and competition all come into play. No wonder Sabie is the battlefield where racing started and hopefully will continue as long as there is fat tyre racing.
Posts by various Enduren Athletes and other authors will appear in this Blog.